'Torture remains in frequent use' in Sri Lanka says UN Rapporteur

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E Mendez, noting that ‘torture continues to be used’ in Sri Lanka, stressed that a lack of structural reform posed a ‘real risk that the practice of torture will continue.” Speaking at a press conference in Colombo, Mr Mendez said, that though the number of cases of torture were much less than during the height of the conflict, “torture remains in frequent use in Sri Lanka by CID and TID because of weak provisions in law.” "Sadly the practice of interrogation under physical and mental coercion still exists and severe forms of torture, albeit probably in less frequent instances, continues to be used," he added. Deploring the varied forms of torture, Mr Mendez said that there were "sexual violations including mutilation of the genital area and rubbing of chili paste or onions on the genital area," reports Agence France Presse. Calling for urgent measures to be taken to prevent further torture and undermining of the transitional justice process, in is preliminary statement said, “The Government should repeal the current PTA. In the context of any replacing legislation, if at all necessary, a robust and transparent national debate should take place that provides for full participation of civil society.”

Swedish Foreign Minister in Jaffna after meetings with Sri Lankan leaders

Updated 2100 GMT Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström arrived in Jaffna on Tuesday, ahead of a series of meetings with civil society activists, displaced Tamils and the Chief Minister of the Northern Province. On arriving in the North-East, Ms Wallström was greeted by Jaffna’s Government Agent Mr N Vethanayaha, as she held a meeting at the District Secratariat.

'Where else should I die but here?'

Dharmeratnam 'Taraki' Sivaram 11 August 1959 - 28 April 2005

SJV Chelvanayakam remembered

Today marks the death of SJV Chelvanayagam QC, who is remembered across the Tamil nation for spear heading the Vaddukoddai resolution, which was overwhelmingly ratified by the Tamil votes in the 1976 parliamentary elections. After representing the Tamil people for five general elections, experiencing repeated disappointments in over 3 decades of negotiation with the Sinhala majoritarian government, Chelvanayagam QC formulated the Vaddukoddai resolution , which remains a cornerstone of the Tamil movement for self-determination in Sri Lanka. In the late fifties, Chelvanayagam QC signed the first ever pact between the Sinhala and Tamil community to resolve the issue of Tamil political demands. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayam pact, signed in 1957, was abrogated by the then President due to vehement opposition by Sinhala parties. Following another decade of civil disobedience and negotiations, Chelvanayagam QC signed a pact to settle Tamil political demands with the then UNP leader Mr Dudely Senanayake. The 1965 general elections, which preceded the signing of the Chelva-Dudely pact, saw no Sinhala political party obtain an absolute majority in parliament. Despite having the support of the Tamil political parties in parliament Mr Senanayake abrogated the pact as vehement opposition arose in the Sinhala South.

Rampant militarisation across the North-East - Report

A new report has detailed ongoing human rights violations and militarisation across all eight districts of the North-East. Harassment and violence by security forces, ongoing occupation of Tamil land and the extensive militarisation are fostering a sense of disillusionment amongst the Tamil population in the North-East, the report by Washington-based PEARL says, based on interviews it conducted in the North-East. A shop operated by the military. The board identifies it as attached to and operated by the 573 Brigade, January 2016 (Photo: PEARL) The report notes that while more obvious surveillance has lessened, covert intelligence gathering continued, including of civil society, human rights and political activists. The military's "massive operational presence" and its involvement in civilian activities not only contributes to a sense of being under occupation but also harms the economic development of the North-East, it further said.

UK opposition leader reiterates Labour Party commitment to justice and self-determination for Tamil people

Photograph: Tamil Guardian The leader of the British opposition Jeremy Corbyn reiterated the Labour party’s commitment to achieving justice and self-determination for the Tamil people. (See live tweeting from the event here . Video extract of statement produced below) After being received with a standing ovation at a meeting of the Labour party with the Tamil community in the Houses of Parliament, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, in his concluding, remarks said, “We as a party are very committed to the issues of human rights and justice. We are very committed to the rights of peoples, Tamil people, in this case, to achieve their justice, their self-expression and their self-determination.”

Britain highlights lack of land release as 'major source of discontent'

The British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka spoke on the importance of returning land to its rightful owners at the launch of a British funded documentary and report on the Sri Lankan military’s occupation of land in the North-East. British High Commissioner James Dauris said his government was pleased to support a new report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) that found over 12,500 acres of land remained occupied by the Sri Lankan military and called for reparations and the restitution of land to its rightful owners. Also supported by the British was a documentary by Kannan Arunasalam entitled ‘Sampur’, examining the struggle of Tamils in the Eastern Province to reclaim back land occupied by the Sri Lankan military. “ Land is deeply and emotionally linked to family and identity ,” said Mr Dauris. “ It is not just a socio-economic issue. Land issues unresolved can become major sources of discontent and inhibit efforts to reconcile people and heal wounds .” “We warmly welcome the return of land by the Sri Lankan government to its rightful owners,” he continued. Watch the full documentary below.

Over 12,500 acres of land occupied by Sri Lankan military in Northern Province – CPA

A new report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) concluded that over 12,500 acres of land remains occupied by the Sri Lankan military and called for reparations and the restitution of land to its rightful owners. The report, “Land occupation in the Northern Province: A commentary on ground realities and recommendations for reform” , was based on four months of field research and interviews, with data from divisional and district level government actors that was cross-checked with civil society activists. “ Research findings indicate to land in the Northern province occupied by the army, air force, police and navy, among others ,” said the report. Though the CPA “ encountered gaps in the availability of data and in some instances a reluctance to disclose exact figures of occupation ,” it stated that a total of "12,751.240783478 acres of land... continues to be occupied in the Northern Province, with lack of clear information in many cases as to whether there is actual acquisition in adherence to the legal framework in Sri Lanka”. “As the research demonstrates, the rights of a significant population in Sri Lanka continue to be violated due to the occupation of land,” the report said.

Tamils call for self determination before Sri Lanka's constitutional reform committee

Tamils in the North-East reiterated calls for self-determination, as the Sri Lankan government’s Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms launched its first meeting in Jaffna this week.